In Step with Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney's (September 25, 1963 -- ) books are full of the rhythms of the African-American community. Stroll down memory lane with Scat Cat Monroe as he follows the rise of Ella Fitzgerald from the small-town girl who liked to sing and dance on street corners to wowing the crowd at the Apollo Theatre when she was only seventeen, dressed in work boots and hand-me-downs.

"At first, her voice came quiet as a whisper. A measly little hiss, soft as a cricket. But when the band joined in, Ella rolled out a tune sweet enough to bake. She won the contest straight up, kicked her dance dreams to the curb, and pinned all her hopes on being a singer."

Andrea loves singing and dancing, and this joy flows through her work like honey through a comb filled to bursting. Her book on Duke Ellington, also Step-Stomp Stride illustrated by her husband Brian Pinkney, uses the raw, scratching rhythms of the artists' palettes in words and pictures to draw out the music-laden story and make it come alive. This one, dedicated to the couple's daughter, "Chloe Grace, who fills us with music," was a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book and a Caldecott Honor Book in 1999.

Andrea Davis was a child of the Civil Rights Era. Her parents were actively involved in the social movement. Later, her book, Let It Shine! Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters celebrated the power of black women of courage, from Harriet Tubman to Shirley Chisholm.

She met her husband, Brian Pinkney, when she was working one of her first editing jobs after finishing her degree in journalism at Syracuse. The two went on to collaborate on many fine books. Their love for their family and music combined to produce the series, Family Celebration Board Books. Shake Shake Shake, Watch Me Dance, I Smell Honey, and Pretty Brown Face are perfect for toddlers.

Andrea went on to be an editor at Essence magazine, as well as an editor for the book publishers, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic. The series she envisioned for promoting black heritage, Jump at the Sun, was very well received. As of this writing, Andrea Davis Pinkney is employed at Houghton Mifflin, where she is both a vice president and a publisher. 

Andrea Pinkney has also written novels for older readers. Silent Thunder: A Civil War Story tells of Rosco and Summer, a brother and sister who live under slavery, and what being a slave does to their childhood and their hopes. Hold Fast to Dreams is the story of twelve-year-old Deirdre who must find her own place in her new school where she is the only black student. In her 2014 novel, The Red Pencil, readers meet Amira, a Sudanese girl who finds hope for an education and a brighter future even while living in a refugee camp.

Click here to see a list of all of her works that are owned by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Books may be reserved for pick up at your favorite branch.

The Red Pencil You can also read more about the author on the Web:

Insights: Barbara J. Odanaka Interviews Andrea Davis Pinkney
A breezy conversation with Andrea Davis Pinkney, award-winning author and Houghton Mifflin's new children's books chief. Click on The Book Biz to find the interview.

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color: Andrea Davis Pinkney
An excellent, short biography and lengthy annotations of some of her more famous works.

Biography Resource Center, available online at no charge to CRRL patrons, has articles on Andrea Pinkney drawn from Contemporary Authors Online, Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, and St. James Guide to Children's Writers.